Yankees shake up roster in surprising move

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported a trade Sunday night that polarized Yankees and baseball fans alike.

Twins 3B Josh Donaldson hits a solo home run. (Jon Blacker / Canadian Press)

The offseason before the 2022 Major League Baseball season provided New York Yankee fans with a lot of hope. After a decent 2021 campaign that ended on the wrong foot, the Yankees’ weaknesses were fairly evident. With the free agent market being quite potent post-lockdown, General Manager Brian Cashman had no excuses in tying up these loose ends. Players like Freddie Freeman, Trevor Story, and Matt Olson were a few examples of assets that Yankees fans almost universally agreed would help this team contend for a title.

Then, news broke Sunday night that the Yankees were acquiring players no one had expected, or even heard so much as rumors about. Additionally, the team gave up some fan favorites to do so. The Yankees sent Catcher Gary Sanchez and Third Baseman Gio Urshela to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Third Baseman and former MVP Josh Donaldson, defensive minded Short Stop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and solid defensive Catcher Ben Rortvedt.

Analysis

At first, many reporters thought this trade was a stepping stone. Some believed that the pieces the Yankees acquired would be used to deal with the Oakland A’s for First Baseman Matt Olson. It is now Tuesday, and based on what is available that scenario looks unlikely. Obviously, Matt Olson is now an Atlanta Brave, but whether these players will be used to lure someone else remains to be seen.

As for the Yankees, this means that they will take on all of the $50 million guaranteed money remaining on Donaldson’s deal. Though with that money, they get a fiery veteran who could give the clubhouse an edge that it seemingly lacks. Donaldson has a history of being an outspoken player, with one example being calling out Yankees ace Gerrit Cole for using foreign substances just last year. It seems as though this feud has been put to rest since the acquisition. His batting average closed at .247 in 2021, but if he can stay healthy I believe his impact can be unquantifiable.

Adding Kiner-Falefa and Rortvedt to this roster does help the defense out quite a bit. Isiah Kiner-Falefa was top five in the league last year in defensive wins above replacement (WAR) amongst short stops. The popular thought is that he will serve to be a placeholder until prospects from the farm system like Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza are ready to come up. Ben Rortvedt may be a slightly worse batter than Gary Sanchez, but his defense is certainly better. In 2021, Sanchez had a caught stealing percentage of a brutal 17%. Compare that to Rortvedt’s 44%. Rortvedt is also only 24, so there’s lots of room for improvement.

I hate using this phrase, but truly only time will tell for this trade. I’ll always appreciate Gio and Gary and remember them fondly, but they did have their shortcomings. I think if nothing, the Yankees gain some personality from this deal. They also improve the defense, which could be behind a shaky rotation to start the season. I always tend to be an optimist, so of course I will give these players a fair shot. At the end of the day, with all the lockdown issues going on the past few months, I’m just glad baseball is back.

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